Chapter 39

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They sat there in silence for several minutes. Cade tried to think of something to say but there was just so much to say. It was all jumbled up in his mind. "Well, I'm going to turn in for the night." He placed his palms on the table then pushed his chair back. Standing slowly, Cade gritted his teeth from the pain in his side. After he set his coffee cup in the sink, he began to make his way to the front door.

"Where are you going?" Faith asked before she could stop herself.

"I was going to sleep in the bunkhouse. Is that all right or – do you want me to stay in town?" God please don't let her say town. First, it would mean that she probably wouldn't take him back. Second, he just didn't think he would be able to make it back to town tonight.

"No, you can stay in the extra bedroom if you want to." Why on earth had she said that? Because she couldn't stand the thought of him leaving again and possibly never coming back, that's why.

"Are you sure? I don't want to put you out."

Faith nodded. "I'll just go get you a lamp."

"Could I ask one small favor?" Cade asked when Faith handed him a lamp for his room. She nodded and waited for his question. "Do you have a couple of strips of clean linen and some salve? I need to clean my side, I haven't been able to since yesterday morning."

"Go sit down on the bed and take your shirt off." In just a few minutes, Faith had some clean linen, salve, a wash cloth, and basin of hot water. She always kept a kettle full of water warming on the stove. Faith sat those items down and left the room again only to return with another lamp and a bottle of whiskey. Cade had removed his shirt and was working on the bandages. God, he was a beautiful man! He'd definitely lost a bit of weight but his muscles were still very well defined.

She had forgotten how much she loved looking at his body, but all of those thought quickly fled her mind when she saw the large red stain on the bandages he was trying to remove. "Oh my God! What did you do?" Faith rushed over to put the lamp and whiskey down on the night stand then sat on the bed swatting his hands away. This was not what she had expected to see when he said he needed to clean his side.

"Kirby Mahoney was trying to make a name for himself and shot me. Thankfully he didn't hit anything vital. John got the bullet out and closed the wound the best he could. He saved my life."

Faith gasped as she finished unwrapping the bandage. "What did John do to you?" She could see an entrance and exit wound. The entrance wound was red and angry looking and was oozing dark red blood. It really looked like it was on the verge of getting infected, if it wasn't already. She looked over the exit wound but it seemed to be healing.

"He had to close it, I was losing too much blood, and we didn't have anything to sew it up with."

"Well I have to clean it and it's going to hurt like the dickens. I brought this to clean your wound but I think you need to drink some first." Faith handed him the bottle of whiskey that she kept for these occasions.

"Thank you." Cade said as he reached for the bottle and took two big swigs. The fiery liquid burned a path down his throat settling in his stomach. After a second or two he turned it up again then handed the bottle back to her. He knew what she was going to do and it was going to hurt like hell.

Faith tried to be as gentle as she could but she could tell that he was in an extreme amount of pain. First she wet the cloth in the hot water and placed it over the wound to soften any dried blood. Then she got a small knife and disinfected it with the whiskey then gently scraped away the angry flesh until any blood she saw was a healthy bright red.

Her hands were gentle but she was still killing him. She was going to have to stop soon, he couldn't take much more. Cade's body was covered in sweat, his ears began to buzz, and he began to see tiny black dots. Shit! He was going to pass out. He took a deep breath to bring fresh air into his oxygen deprived body. From a distance he could hear someone talking but he wasn't able to make out what was being said.

"Cade, Cade, are you all right?" Faith looked up at him with wide slate blue eyes filled with concern. She finished cleaning the wound and liberally splashed the whiskey over both wounds. As soon as the alcohol touched his raw flesh, Cade groaned and slumped over onto Faith. They both almost landed in the floor but somehow Faith managed to keep her balance and push him onto his back then onto his good side. "Good Lord you are heavier than you look!" Faith said aloud. While he was out, she quickly smoothed the thick healing salve onto his skin then got the clean strips of cloth.

Faith stood there for a minute wondering how in the world she was going to get the bandages around him. After rolling the bandages up, she climbed onto the bed and straddled him. It seemed like it took forever but when she was finally done she climbed down and admired her work. It wasn't pretty but she had managed to get the bandages around him and tied. She was panting with the effort it took and a fine sheen of perspiration shown on her upper lip and forehead. Several strands of hair had escaped her braid and were hanging around her face.

She was exhausted now but knew there wouldn't be any sleep tonight. It only took minutes for her to clean everything up, then she went back and removed Cade's boots. That turned out to be almost as difficult as getting him bandaged. He still had his britches on and that was just fine with her. Faith covered him with a quilt then got one for herself. After several minutes, she decided to sleep on the bed, the chair was just too uncomfortable. Faith turned one lamp off and the other one down, then crawled on top of the covers beside her husband.

No matter how hard she tried, her mind just wouldn't shut off. Thoughts just kept going and going around in her head. Could she trust him not to leave again? He had said that he loved her and missed her. Faith's heart began to beat a little faster. He was here! What was she going to do? She rolled over onto her side facing Cade. A dark lock of hair had fallen across his face. Her fingers reached out to smooth it back but they lingered, moving slowly through his silky hair, then to his forehead, eyebrows, his stubbled cheek, and finally his lips.

She loved this man almost as much as she loved her son but she just didn't know. One thing was for certain, a decision did not have to be made right this very minute. She would pray about it right this very minute. She would pray about it and take a fresh look at things in the morning. Faith laid her hand across Cade's chest. The steady beat of his heart beneath her palm slowly lulled her to sleep.

Cade waited until Faith's breathing became slow and steady before he cracked his eyes open and turned his head to look at his sleeping wife. For just a minute he thought he was dreaming again but one of her fingers twitched on his chest and he knew she was real. She was so much more beautiful than he remembered.

Dark lashes fanned out on her slightly sun kissed cheeks. Her full lips were pursed ever so slightly in her sleep. His body ached to hold her and make love to her but for now he was content to lay here beside her. Hopefully they would have the rest of their lives for the other. Feeling truly at peace for the first time in his life, Cade gently laid his calloused hand over hers then closed his eyes and slept.

Faith woke with a start the next morning. For a split second she was confused, not knowing why she was in her guest room and had slept in her clothes. Then she remembered. Cade had come back! Oh her heart was rejoicing but her head was screaming at her to put on the brakes and think everything through. A noise interrupted her thoughts drawing her attention to the kitchen, someone was in there. She got up and quietly walked into the kitchen, then stood there in shock.

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